Becoming the ultimate werewolf wizard in retro roguelike Haque

It's not even a question. I can be a necromancer, some dude with a stick, or a werewolf wizard. A werewolf wizard with brass knuckles who throws boulders and shoots icicles, no less. What better way to start my first playthrough of Haque, a newly released turn-based roguelike from SuperTry Studios. So begins the tragically short but altogether frickin' sweet life of thaumaturgic lycanthrope Fendr Plankflesh. Oh, and Forest, his fairy partner. No, I didn't come up with the names. They'd have been much stupider if I had. 

At the request of a mysterious old man named Old Man, I enter the first floor of the dungeon. And boy, is it pixely in here. Now, the roguelike descriptor is a meaningless but necessary evil, a convenient if inconsistent bundle of terms like procedural and permadeath. That said, Haque is more like 1980's Rogue than most. It is incredibly retro. The low-res but endearing world renders in a small circle around my character and updates with every action I take. A D&D-style wall of commands and effects scrolls by on the right third of the screen, and some of the letters on my hotbar skills are so pixelated that they look like Latin.

Happily, the first entry in what I'm calling the action scroll informs me the enemies in this dungeon floor are all sluggish and tired. Which reflects poorly on me, because I miss the first enemy I attack: a bat. My opening icicle careens over its head, so I try lobbing a boulder its way instead. Miraculously, I miss this as well.

Finally seeing exactly what sort of dolt she's been paired with, Forest automatically casts a protective barrier on me, presumably sighing, downcast. This protects me from the bat's attacks as I finish it off with some good old-fashioned knuckle sandwiches. May the werewolf gods smile upon me as I smite these vile bloodsuckers. 

I pull up the minimap and head toward some unexplored rooms, which turn out to be graveyards filled with slimes and evil pumpkins. I fare better against these: a boulder connects and absolutely clobbers a pumpkin, as boulders are wont to do. But my satisfaction diminishes somewhat when I discover that, in the time it took me, a werewolf wizard, to kill one pumpkin, Forest, an AI fairy, killed two slimes. She's making me look bad, but she's also probably the only reason I'm still alive, so I put on a brave face and head to the teleporter. 

Junk dodges Fendr's attack. 

Junk dodges Fendr's attack

Before entering the next level, I get to choose between three skill add-ons. Again, no contest: frost boulders beats a small defense boost and a small speed boost. This also prompts me to look closely at my stats, which turn out to be surprisingly robust. I have a damage range of 9 - 19, a whopping six defense, a 12 percent dodge chance, and 2.5 movement and attack speed (which I later learn determines how many actions I can take before enemies have a chance to retaliate). I also have pitifully low accuracy, which explains my bat fiasco. I trade my brass knuckles for a rapier I picked up along the way, which bumps my accuracy up to 90 percent. Let's see those bats dodge me now.

Unfortunately the next level has no bats on which to test my newly acquired depth perception—only spiders and snakes as far as the eye can see, which is to say like six blocks. Two spiders swiftly identify the real threat in my party and gang up on Forest. She's done for at this rate. In a fit of rage known only to players whose healer is under attack, I activate my werewolf form for the first time, like some kind of Toonami shounen anime protagonist. I tear through both the spiders and my remaining mana in just a few turns, and promptly give Forest a regeneration crystal. I like to think this improves her opinion of me. The trouble is, not two minutes later, I stumble into an abandoned forge and attack and miss a box. I'm trying my best, Forest, I swear.

The anvil in the forge also yields a game-changing discovery: I can smack items together to make new, better items. My brass knuckles and rapier are both iron (don't think too much about the brass part), so they don't make anything interesting. But by combining my rapier with a snakeskin I picked up, I can make a snake rapier with higher accuracy. With visions of pinpoint boulders dancing in my head, I immediately give my breastplate the same treatment, using up the last of my snakeskins. Call me Snake Man.  

Snake Man makes it to the third floor, whose enemies are said to be hideously inaccurate. Then again, I just missed a fucking box, so who am I to judge? It's smooth sailing until the old man warns me that a 'skeletitan' stalks this area. Judging from the extreme, glitch-like artifacting that often occurs whenever he talks to me, the old man seems to be fading in and out of reality. I suspect there's some sort of meta-narrative afoot, but Snake Man will never learn the truth. 

No, I didn't die to the skeletitan, thank you very much. I'll have you know I annihilated him in my wolf form and made it two floors deeper, where I was swiftly pulverized by a manticore. At the very least, I died before Forest, so I can at least hope she made it out all right. 

Austin Wood
Staff writer, GamesRadar

Austin freelanced for PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and has been a full-time writer at PC Gamer's sister publication GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover-up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news, the occasional feature, and as much Genshin Impact as he can get away with.